This past summer I took my first steps in to whitetail habitat management and dived head first into the world of food plots. With nothing but an eager spirit and two hands looking to get dirty, I set off to read up on the topic and develop a strategy. My goal for year one? Give food plots a try on a small scale and plant one small plot for hunting over during Fall 2010. Eight months later, as I look back on the development of my food plot and how things worked out, I couldn’t be any happier. And as I reflect, several things stand out as being key to my success. So read on for what I believe were the keys to the success I had with my first food plot and a look back at several of the thousands of trailcam pics I captured over this hunting plot.
1. The first and foremost key to my success was proper preparation. For months leading up actually planting my plot, I had been reading the QDMA’s “Quality Whitetails” and Whitetails Institute’s “Whitetail News” magazines, which provided me with a very solid understanding of food plot basics and strategies. Of all the tips I picked up, #1 was preparation. As a wise man once said, “failing to prepare, is preparing to fail”. The first step in this process was getting a soil test done. I got a few samples, sent it in to the Whitetail Institute labs and within a week or so I had my results emailed back to me. These results showed me exactly how much lime and what kind of fertilizer I needed. From there I killed the existing vegetation on this area with Roundup, a couple weeks later I tilled it up and during the first week of September I planted my first food plot!
2. A second key to my success was the selection of the right forage for my food plot. After plenty of research and considering my goals, I knew I wanted something that would be a strong attractant during the hunting season and something that would grow well in a relatively remote location. I looked at a number of different seed blends and brands, but I finally picked up my phone and decided I would get some advice first hand. I ended up calling Whitetail Institute (this was before they were affiliated at all with Wired To Hunt), and I spoke to a customer service rep, aka a food plot expert. I was able to get clear answers to my questions and sound advice about what types of food plots might work best given my circumstances. Given the fact that I had no real farm equipment to thoroughly work my ground, and the fact that I was looking for a fast growing fall annual, Imperial No-Plow seemed like an obvious choice. Boy were we right. With the work of nothing more than Roundup, a roto-tiller and hand spreader, I was able to plant my No-Plow and quickly watch it flourish.
3. As this was my first food plot, possibly the most important factor to my success was that I bit off just the right amount for my chewing ability. Many folks want to get into food plots and then decide they’re going to plant every open area on their property. So with almost no experience, some guys try to plant 20, 30, 0r 40 acres in plots and they end up spreading themselves too thin. Inevitably when trying to do so much, for the first time, mistakes are made and the consequences are harsher on such a grand scale. By starting small, I was able to think through everything thoroughly and spend my time focusing on the details. This attention to detail lent itself to a successful food plot and goals achieved. Heading into this year, I feel much more comfortable with my ability to implement food plots and I plan to plant multiple plots of larger size, that I know I couldn’t have tackled a year ago. If you’re looking to get started with food plots, keep this aforementioned keys to success in mind and I’m sure you can have just as great of an experience as I did!
Take a look below to see how my local deer herd took to the No-Plow over the course of the last few months!
Almost immediately, within a week or two of planting, a lush blanket of clover took off and deer quickly began feeding in my plot. The attracting qualities of clover are renowned, and the presence of clover immediately marked my plot as a destination for nearby deer.
Over the following weeks, the rye and brassicas in the No-Plow mix began to emerge more strongly and deer continued to frequent my plot, nibbiling on clover and rye. As hunting season approached, deer were visiting the plot on a daily basis.
In September this plot was visited most often by doe, but as October and November rolled around I began to get frequent pictures of bucks cruising through the area and eating along the way. By drawing the doe to feed in my plot, it inevitably brought the big boys and this trailcam location ended up being the only spot I got pictures of good mature bucks on this property. Without my plot, I’m not sure I ever would have seen the mature buck potential this property had. Frank the Tank, pictured above, frequented my No-Plow plot and my dreams for many weeks during October and November.
As the winter months rolled around, the frost changed the sugar content in the brassicas and they became the hot item for my plot. What I liked most about the No-Plow was that it contained clover for that immediate attraction and then brassicas that provided the late season attraction all the way through the winter. It truly pulled deer for 8 months straight and it remained a top stand location for me from day one of my season til the end.
For more info about Whitetail Institute’s Imperial No-Plow check out their website here.